Sharpe’s Fortress (Sharpe #3) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Sharpe’s Fortress
Series: Sharpe #3
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 274
Words: 114.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

In 1803, Arthur Wellesley’s British and sepoy army is in pursuit of the Mahrattas in western India, having beaten them in the Battle of Assaye. Ensign Richard Sharpe, newly made an officer, is beginning to wish he had remained a sergeant, as most of his fellow officers look down upon him, including Captain Urquhart, his commanding officer. Urquhart suggests he sell his commission if he is not happy.

Manu Bappoo, the younger brother of the Rajah of Berar, decides to turn around and fight the British again, with his best unit, composed of Arab mercenaries, leading the charge, but he is again routed. During the fighting, Sharpe is impressed by the bravery of a teenage Arab boy, Ahmed, and saves his life when the boy is surrounded. Ahmed becomes his servant.

After the battle, Urquhart reassigns Sharpe to the 95th Rifles, an experimental unit, though the transfer cannot be completed while the war rages on. For the moment, Sharpe is sent to manage the baggage train, under the command of Captain Torrance. The army is short of many desperately needed supplies, and Sharpe soon discovers why. Lazy and deeply in debt, Torrance has been selling them to the merchant Naig, with the assistance of Sharpe’s old nemesis, Sergeant Hakeswill. When Sharpe finds many of the stolen supplies in Naig’s tent, Torrance has his associate hanged immediately to avoid being implicated. Jama, Naig’s brother, is not pleased, so Torrance agrees to betray Sharpe into his hands. Hakeswill is only too glad to waylay Sharpe; besides their mutual hatred, he rightly suspects that Sharpe has a fortune in jewels looted from a dead enemy ruler.

Hakeswill ambushes Sharpe and takes him prisoner. He steals all of the jewels Sharpe has hidden on his person, then hands him over to Jama. Fortunately, Ahmed witnesses Sharpe’s kidnapping and gets away. He finds Sharpe’s friend, Syud Sevagee, who rescues him. Sharpe decides to let his enemies believe he is dead. Using this ruse, he catches captain Torrance alone and kills him in an act of summary justice.

The Mahrattas take refuge in Gawilghur, a seemingly impregnable fortress, perched high on cliffs above the Deccan Plain. Wellesley, despite his deep misgivings, has no choice but to attack anyway. Gawilghur is composed of an Outer Fort and an Inner Fort. While the Outer Fort is formidable, the Mahrattas expect the British to take it, though at heavy cost. However, the Inner Fort is so strong, they are confident it cannot fall. Once Wellesley’s army has been bled dry trying to capture it, the Mahrattas plan to emerge and destroy the survivors.

When two of Hakeswill’s henchmen are killed, Hakeswill realises Sharpe is responsible, so he deserts and finds service with the renegade Englishman William Dodd in Gawilghur. Who rules in Gawilghur, it is said, rules India, and Dodd intends for it to be him. When the Outer Fort falls, Dodd orders the gates of the Inner Fort be kept closed, trapping Manu Bappoo outside to be killed by the British. Dodd also murders Beny Singh, the weak commander of Gawilghur. However, Sharpe finds a way into the Inner Fort, a section of the wall which is weakly defended because it sits atop a steep cliff. The cliff, however, can be scaled. When Captain Morris, Sharpe’s commanding officer, refuses to give him men, Sharpe beats him, then takes charge and leads a group of soldiers inside and opens the gates. He then finds and duels with Dodd, only to find that Dodd is by far the better swordsman. It is Dodd who gives Sharpe the scar on his right cheek. Ahmed appears unexpectedly and attacks Dodd. Dodd kills him easily, but a cavalryman shoots him in the shoulder, and then Sharpe is able to kill him.

Hakeswill tries to flee, disguised as a British soldier, but Sharpe finds him. Sharpe retrieves most of his jewels from him, then backs Hakeswill up until he falls into a pit filled with poisonous snakes.

My Thoughts:

This was a good adventure story. Without a side character who is religious and devout, Cornwell didn’t seem to have a target for his religious vitriol and thus didn’t use Sharpe as a mouthpiece. Hakeswill is still around, but he talks a LOT less, so his abuse of the phrase “Scripture says” was cut down to a palatable amount.

Speaking of Hakeswill. The book ends with Sharpe pushing him into a pit of poisonous snakes and then Sharpe just walks away without confirming that Hakeswill dies. How stupid is Sharpe? He’s tried to feed Hakeswill to tigers AND have an elephant crush him but he never verifies. So I am fully expecting Hakeswill to survive and come back in the next book to cause problems yet again. Honestly, I’m surprised Sharpe just doesn’t bring him up on charges for not saluting him and have him flogged to death. What’s the point of being an Officer if he’s still going to think and act like a soldier of the line?

I am not at all familiar with the history of Britain’s conquering of India, as I’m more concerned with the American and British bit of history, so this has all been brand new stuff to me. I rather like it and am enjoying the story. There was talk about Sharpe being transferred to another company somewhere in this book and I think they were located back in England, so this might be the last of the Indian scenery. I guess I’ll find out in the next book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

20 thoughts on “Sharpe’s Fortress (Sharpe #3) ★★★✬☆

  1. I guess it’s an Austin Powers think, but if I was a tough guy, I wouldn’t push people into snake pits, or leave them in burning buldings if I wanted to make sure they were finished; I’d pay attention and get the job done properly and leave nothing to chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I guess I’ll get to see how Cornwell handles naval stuff then. I just hope Sharpe doesn’t spend the entire book being sea sick. As much as I’d LOVE for that to be his fate, it would make for a very boring story 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t “do” historical fiction. So while this may BE that, to me it’s simply fiction set in the past. It’s as “historical” as a Charles Dickens novel imo.
      It’s definitely entertaining, with some caveats….

      Liked by 1 person

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